The Ultimate Guide to Philippine Animation

The Ultimate Guide to Philippine Animation Featured Image

Animation is a thriving industry in the Philippines. In fact, the country is one of the earliest major players in the global animation field due to the need for outsourced services.


Nowadays, animation can be seen anywhere in the country—on the screens of televisions, in cinemas, on the internet, and even on billboards on the highways. However, before you reflect on Philippine animation, there are several important things you should know about the craft in general.


To guide you, here’s everything you need to know about animation including its definition, types, principles, and its overall impact on the country.


Everything You Need to Know About Philippine Animation


Animation involves capturing a series of still pictures and playing them in rapid succession to create an illusion of movement. It is a visual art that allows you to manipulate time, mimic real movements in slow motion, and act through body language to ultimately tell a compelling story.


The term “animation” actually refers to a variety of techniques that add movements to inanimate objects or images. So even though there are a lot of types of animation, here are the basic ones commonly used by artists.


Basic Types of Animation


1. Traditional Animation

Traditional animation is one of the older types of animation, in which the animator draws every frame to create the story sequence. Once the drawings are complete, the animator then goes on photograph each individual frame to bring an inanimate object into life. 


However, this requires a lot of time and money to achieve the desirable effect. As a result, animators have since developed more modern methods.


2. Vector Animation

Vector animation adopts the same techniques used by traditional animation. Also known as 2D animation, it makes use of the computer to generate most of the individual frames (based on the animator’s input) needed for a clear story flow.


3. 3D Animation

3D animation, or CGI, is completely different from traditional animation. It requires an understanding on the same principles of movement and composition but the technical skill set needed is very distinct for each task. The animators simply focus on controlling the movements of the characters and leave the visual elements up to the computer. It’s more similar to puppetry rather than drawing.


4. Stop Motion

Stop motion is done by capturing a photo of an object, then moving it just a little bit to take another photo.


This process is similar to traditional animation but it uses real life objects instead of drawings to create an illusion of movement. And even though it is also time consuming and expensive, the end results are often unique and incomparable.


5. Motion Graphics

Still considered as a form of animation, motion graphics is nothing alike the other types of animations as it is not character or story-driven. It’s simply the art of moving graphic elements such as texts or shapes.


Common examples include animated logos, film opening titles, explainer videos, and app advertisements.


The kind of animation you choose all depends on your budget, goals, and brand personality.


Now that you have a basic idea about animation in general, it’s time to take a look on how this visual art impacted the Philippines. 


A Look into Philippine Animation


As early as the 1980s, the country has been providing animation services to big production companies such as Burbank Studios, Toei Animation and even Disney. However, Philippine animation actually emerged during the 1920s when local artists began working on comic books, also known as komiks. These comic books are the basis of today’s animation. 


The first of its kind is entitled Mga Kabalbalan ni Kenkoy. Created by Filipino visual artist Antonio Velasquez and writer Romualdo Ramos, it was published as a weekly comic strip at the Liwayway magazine. It became a popular hit to the public which leads to it being translated to other languages. Since then, FIlipino artists was inspired to make other cartoon characters.


One of these people is Carlo J. Caparas who created Panday in the 1970s. A decade later, a Filipino animator named Gerry Garcia adapted the comics to television. Garcia’s work is the first Filipino-made TV cartoon. 


As more and more Filipino artists are introduced to the art, they looked for other opportunities abroad. Filipino animator Ronnie Del Carmen was chosen by Dreamworks Studios (Los Angeles, USA) to work as an artistic supervisor for works such as The Road to El Dorado and The Prince of Egypt


Due to this rising recognition of Filipino animators, many international animation companies have put up their studios here. Today, the country is now one of the leading outsourced service providers of the field in the world, only next to India.


Behind the Scenes: The Philippine Animation Production Process


For decades, Filipinos have been successful in helping major animation studios produce compelling animated videos. However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. For one, Filipino animators need to pass the international standards set by these global companies.


Curious to what happens behind the scenes? Here’s a breakdown of the basic Philippine animation production process.


1. Pre-Production

  • Story

Story is king of animated videos. This is the basis of all the other elements involved in the production process and without it, there’s no end result.


As such, developing a script is the first task every Filipino creator should do.


Did You Know? A Filipino animator, named Ronnie del Carmen, co-written and co-directed the popular Pixar film Inside Out.


  • Storyboarding

Storyboarding is the process of breaking down the script into scenes and drawing it into panels similar to a graphic novel. 


It allows the director to envision the end look of the animation and lets him make appropriate creative decisions with other people involved in the production.


  • Editorial

After the storyboards are done, they are forwarded to the editorial team who will create an animatic based on the drawn panels. 


This animatic presents the beats of the story and is comprised of storyboard images, scratch dialogues, and even temporary music and sound effects as necessary.


  • Visual Development

Visual development is the stage where Filipino concept artists create the final look of the animation. This includes the design elements found in characters, props, backgrounds, and color palettes.


Overall, it gives the whole team a clear visual guide to follow during production.


  • Pre-visualization

At this phase, animators review the script and storyboard to scale characters and environments in three-dimensional space through the computer. This also serves as a blueprint of the final product which allows the client to make changes before they even start to film.


2. Production

  • Modeling

Commonly used in 3D animation, the modeling process produces a digital object capable of being fully animated. It’s an essential stage in production as it usually involves the sculptures of characters, sets, and props.


  • Surfacing

This is the phase where surface artists use colors, textures, and shades to make the various elements of an animated film pop out. Just take the Disney film Ratatouille as an example. Part of the reason why the ratatouille dish looks appetizing is due to the surfacing team’s effort. 


Ultimately, surfacing artists ensure the animated textures match the concept designs approved by the visual department.


  • Rigging

Rigging gives animated characters the ability to move their faces and bodies per the requirements of the script. Without it, they won’t be able to hold themselves up and move around.


  • Layout and Set Dressing

Layout involves the conceptualization of environments based on the story of the animated film. Layout artists are tasked to design the stage where the animation of the characters takes place. 


On the other hand, set dressing is the preparation of the appropriate props and furniture required in the scene. The set dresser’s main job is to establish and maintain the continuity of these items in between sequences and shots.


  • Character Animation

Character animation is an important stage in the animation process.


Character animators are tasked to bring the characters to life by using the rig made by the rigging department. In addition, they also need to carefully think about the movements and expressions of the characters in order to effectively tell a story.


Furthermore, character animators often act out the scenes of the script through video. They then use this as a reference for their animation.


Did You Know? Filipino animator Gini Cruz Santos was praised for her character animation work of Dory, an integral character on Disney’s film Finding Nemo.


  • Crowd Simulation

Besides the main characters, an animated film should also include scenes with crowds.


As such, the crowds department is primarily responsible for animating a large number of characters in the film. They work to simulate realistic looking actions that should not distract from the main action.


  • Technical Directing

Since an animated film revolves around the lives of the characters, technical directing is essential to make the scenes feel alive and believable.


Technical directors creates motion or simulation that responds to the way a character moves. For instance, when a character sits on a couch, they let the cushions react by flattening it. This ultimately makes it realistic.


  • Lighting

Lighting is an important element in creating the look and tone of a particular animated video. It guides the viewer’s eye to where the main action is taking place.


3. Post-Production

  • Compositing

At this phase, all the individual frames are rendered together to create the final edited version. This is also the time where compositors tweak the color and adjust the depth of field accordingly to make the shot look exceptional.


  • Music and Sound Design

Music and sound design are two elements that are added during the last stages of animation production.


If you remove parts of the scenes by a few frames, the music score and sound effects wouldn’t play in sync with the actions of the characters. As such, these two are typically put on after the final edit are locked in.


  • Color Grading

Often the last stage of the production process, color grading gives the animated videos a distinct look based on the scene’s moods. It also provides accurate and consistent color throughout the video.


Famous Filipino Full-Length Animated Films


However, despite the success of Filipino animators around the world, there has only been a few who produced animated films exclusively in the country. Here’s a list of those films.


1. Adarna: The Mythical Bird

Adarna: The Mythical Bird is the first feature-length animated film in the Philippines. It’s also the first movie of its kind to receive an award in the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).


Based on the famous local epic poem entitled “Ibong Adarna,” the story revolves around a mythical bird and three princes vying for the kingdom’s throne. It featured the voices of popular local actors and singers Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Marvin Agustin, Boots Anson Roa, and Jolina Magdangal.


Gerry Garcia, considered to be the pioneer of Philippine animation, was the writer and director of the animated film.


2. Urduja

More than 10 years later, Mike Tuviera and Antonio Tuviera followed Gerry Garcia’s footsteps and created Urduja. They used the traditional animation style of hand drawing.


The film tells the life story of Princess Urduja, based on the legendary warrior princess in Pangasinan. The main arc shows her struggles in finding the right husband who can lead her own tribe after her father’s death. 


The characters were voiced by actors Regine Velasquez, Eddie Garcia, Cesar Montano, Jay Manalo, and Johnny Delgado with Velasquez being handpicked by the Tuviera brothers.


3. Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia

Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia combines both traditional and 3D animation and became the country’s first digital full-length feature.


The film follows the adventures of an 11-year-old boy as he attempts to rescue his abducted grandparents from a magical land. It also gives a nod to Philippine pop culture as it features local mythical creatures such as siyokoy, tikbalang, kapre, and aswang. Actors Nash Aguas, John Manalo, Katrina Legaspi, Michael V., and Peque Gallaga gave voices to the characters.


Did You Know? The film production hired over 500 animators to work on the 2D animation of the characters and the 3D animation for the scene’s backdrops.


4. RPG Metanoia

RPG Metanoia is the first full-length 3D animated film in the Philippines. It is an official entry to the 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival, where it won numerous awards.


The film is about the story of a young boy named Nico who can transform into a video game character every time he plays a MMORPG game. It starred the voices of Zaijian Jaranilla, Aga Muhlach, Eugene Domingo, Vhong Navarro and Mika dela Cruz.


5. Saving Sally

Saving Sally is a typical romance tale between Marty, a young aspiring comic book artist and Sally, a gadget inventor. The film achieves a completely refreshing look by mixing both animation and live action to depict the streets of Manila. It starred actors Rhian Ramos, Enzo Marcos, and TJ Trinidad.


And despite a slow opening at the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, the feature became one of the top-grossing entries by the end of its theatrical run.


Did You Know? The film took a decade to finish because of issues regarding the initial cast, funding, and the laborious editing work.


Facts About Philippine Animation


1. Majority of International Cartoon Series and Movies are Made in the Philippines

Yes, they are partly created here in the country! Talk about Pinoy Pride!


In fact, many local animation companies are outsourced to make different drawings for international series and movies. They create the movements and backgrounds required in the scenes and forward it to the head studio for completion.


And despite the popularity of 3D animation, Filipino artists are mostly tasked to draw characters or scenes using the traditional (hand-drawn) style of animation due to their outstanding drawing skills. Just some of the classics made in the Philippines include Kim Possible, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Land Before Time, The Emperor’s New Groove and Curious George.


2. It Takes Approximately More Than 100 Illustrations to Make a 1-minute Video

Since a character’s simplest movement needs a lot of drawings, it takes approximately more than 100 Illustrations to complete a 1-minute video. However, it may actually take more than that as the backgrounds and other characters also require a lot of sketches.


3. Drawings are Sold Per Page

Despite the mass of animation companies in the country, there are a lot of Filipino artists who do freelance work and gets paid for their drawings per piece. They typically draw one character movement for each page and may sketch up to 200 drawings to complete a detailed look.


4. Photographers Can Work in the Animation Industry

Animation needs a good background to make the work effective. As a result, some photographers are hired to take actual photos of landscapes and seascapes for animators to use as reference for their drawings.


However, photographers can also get really involved in the animation process. They like to take photos of the drawings and make them digital. They then collect these digital collections to do enhancements on them such as changing the color and making them move. Ultimately, photographers can create animation that uses both traditional and digital styles.


5. There are More Than 20 Types of Animators

Oftentimes, people think of animators as artists who draw the characters. They are partly right, but did you know that there are over 20 kinds of animators here in the country? Just some of these include in-between artists, clean-up artists, and background artists.


Usually, in international animation companies, the main character designer is directly hired by the head studio. However, the movements and studies of the character is actually forwarded to Filipino artists for them to work on it.


As such, the in-between artists are the ones who make these movements. Meanwhile, the clean-up artists draw adjustments as needed such as straight lines and additional movements. Lastly, the background artists are the ones responsible for the settings in the animation.


Did You Know? If you are a painter, you can actually apply as a background artist in the animation industry.


6. Most Animated Characters Have Four Fingers

Both international and local studios produce characters with four fingers to save a considerable amount of money in production. This decision also significantly reduce the time required to render the frames needed for the animation. Most importantly, having four fingers does not really cause any visual discomfort among audiences.


ALSO READ: 7 World-Famous Video Productions with Scenes Set in the Philippines


Animation is a visual art that requires proper discipline. It takes a lot of effort to draw one well-made picture, let alone produce a full-length animated video. Hopefully, with this guide, you’ll have essential insight about the craft in general as well as its impact in the Philippines to inspire you on your next project.


Ready to give animation a try? Mustasa Republic, a reputable multimedia company in the Philippines, offer both 2D and 3D animation services. We implement the best practices in the industry to give you engaging animated campaigns that can propel your brand’s visibility and ultimately drive sales.